Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.
It took me years to understand the depth of this trite-as-ever quote.
Most of the time, we’re incapable of comprehending certain philosophies until we’ve endured them firsthand. Sure, it makes sense to keep your enemies close, so you can keep tabs on them and seek revenge by pouring ice buckets over their heads when they least expect it.
But, I learned this isn’t what the famous quote intended to preach at all.
After going through life and encountering many enemies, I came to learn the quote means something a little more Buddhist and a little less vengeful.
I encountered my first enemies when I became the prime target of my high school’s “mean girls.” On walks home from school, they’d yell out things to me like, “musical theater loser” and “you brown piece of sh*t.”
Seeing as I was young and this was my first time being bullied, I went home and cried myself to sleep almost every night. The insults hurt like hell and I didn’t know what to do with them.
A few years later, I made another enemy, but this time, in the form of the notorious “frenemy.” My best friend of more than 10 years decided to skip out on my sister’s wedding because she had to “study for a test.” After the wedding came and went, I barely ever heard from her again.
Some time after the frenemy incident, I landed a job.
At work, one of my coworkers got hold of some of my personal information through social media, and he started to slut-shame me. Pretty soon, a whole group of guys at work were spreading rumors about me, most of which were not true.
But, luckily for me, I’d been bullied enough, and at this point, I knew better than to cry about it. Instead of internalizing public hatred and making myself miserable, I brushed it off like a pro.
I forgave my high school bullies because I didn’t realize until later that karma truly is reliable. Their cheerleader-infused popularity ended up being their peaks in life.
I forgave my frenemy because regardless of our fall-out, she gave me 10 amazing years of friendship. I forgave my coworkers because instead of walking around with the heavy weight that is the grudge, I chose to lighten my load and stand up for myself.
So forgive, but don’t forget. Forgive your enemies because they are either insecure, giving in to societal pressures or going through something that makes them feel good about making you feel bad.
You will never cease to make enemies, no matter how old you get, but if you learn how to deal with them — to forgive them — rather than to let them chip away at you, you’ll be ahead of the game.
Confident people don’t seek to bring others down because they’re too busy working on their own empires. Knowledge plus confidence, whether gained through books or “street smarts,” equals open-mindedness.
Open-minded people tolerate whatever situation you’re going through and whomever you are, regardless of what “being you” entails.
If you surround yourself with enough knowledgeable people, the once-in-a-while bully won’t even be a glitch on your radar.
Don’t forget, though, we learn the most we know from our worst experiences; your enemies will teach you who to trust and who not to trust. They’ll force you to build character. They might even inspire you to help others through your experiences.
If nothing else, they make for great stories (wink, wink).
And, despite the fact that each enemy had his or her own agenda and channeled his or own hate in different ways, they all did something great for me: They shaped who I am today.
“Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer” means to keep ’em close, as silent reminders, so you can look at yourself in the mirror and say, “Today, I am strong.”